Regular correspondent Chris Broadbent discovered the benefits of the long slow run last year and was surprised at its benefits.
It used to be set in my mind that to be a fast runner, you had to run fast. So, every time I set out on a training run, I would tear out of the door and go at it hammer and tongs until I was knackered. In my mind, that was the best way to train. Surely if you were training slowly, then you were preparing to run slowly and you'd better be prepared for a slow time in that race you've got coming up. The faster you trained, then the faster you ran, your body would simply get used to the speed. It seemed pretty logical to me.
However, when it came to distances above 10k, I had found myself simply running out of gas and my times were a disappointment. If I am honest, even at 10k, it felt like I was hanging on for dear life in the last third of the race.
Naturally, when you are racing, adrenaline kicks in and you run faster. But for distances above 10k, that adrenaline is only going to last you so long. So last year, for the first time, I began to incorporate long slow distance running in my training.
It felt weird at first. It didn't quite give me the buzz that high speed training had. It almost made me feel a little guilty, like I wasn't REALLY training. But I did find that I could go for longer and there was a post-training satisfaction when I mapped my run on-line afterwards. Sometimes, it was quite astounding. One day, I thought my untimed meandering run through the city had been about 10 miles. I had actually ran 17 miles that day.
Using this new method, I improved my best for half marathon, 20 miles and marathon all within a couple of months. The marathon still was an uncomfortable experience, but then it's a marathon. But the 20 mile distance felt comfortable and I was still able to unleash some speed motivated by the race situation. For the first time ever, I felt like my body was able to cope with longer distances.
Recently I looked into the science behind it and found that long slow runs build blood volume, increase muscle strength, endurance, and aerobic fitness. Consequentially, it enhances all the essential tools needed for distance running.
Don't fall into the trap I did, make sure the long slow run has its place in your training programme. Without it, you could be in for a slow, painful ride.